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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Gatineau (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Question No. 166 June 20th, 2002

With respect to the property formerly belonging to Roderick Percy Sparks, situated at 420 chemin du lac Meech in Chelsea, Quebec: ( a ) does the government have a real-property management plan for this property; ( b ) what was the purpose of the excavation work done on this property by employees of Aqua Terre Solutions Inc. on November 5, 2001; and ( c ) what were the objectives of the contract for their work?

Petitions June 20th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, in the same vein, I have a petition from constituents in my area that calls upon parliament to protect children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophiles and their activities involving children be outlawed.

Charter of Rights and Freedoms May 3rd, 2002

Mr. Speaker, on April 17, the 20th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of RIghts and Freedoms, 200 people all over the country received Canadian citizenship.

This was a particularly propitious day for them to declare their commitment to Canada. Many people choose our country because of the values of freedom and respect that are entrenched in our charter.

In a world where many have no access to that choice, where many have been expelled from their homes by intolerance or injustice, we need to be proud of how we are respecting our international commitments by helping true refugees to start new lives in Canada.

These newcomers contribute to our economic growth and enrich our culture; they deserve all of our encouragement and support.

Committees of the House May 2nd, 2002

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to the second report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration entitled “Hands across the border: Working Together at our Shared Border and Abroad To Ensure Safety, Security and Efficiency”.

The Middle East April 9th, 2002

Madam Speaker, first I want to thank the hon. member for Mercier for bringing this debate to the House. The ongoing crisis that is escalating from day to day made this debate necessary.

I also want to point out that our colleague from Burnaby—Douglas is here in the House. I am glad to see him safe and sound and I congratulate him on his great courage.

There were many comments made here this evening. I was listening to the leader of the New Democratic Party. I thought she had an excellent presentation which brought out the fact that many organizations in the world were speaking out with concern about the crisis and that Canada could play a role regardless of its size. Size is not what is important. It is the moral support that we can bring to the resolution of the problem.

One organization that has spoken out is the World Council of Churches. It said:

On March 9, the thirteen Patriarchs and Heads of Churches and Christian communities in Jerusalem issued a statement calling on the Israeli government to "stop all kinds of destruction and death caused by the heavy Israeli weaponry". It is their belief that "Israeli security is dependent on Palestinian freedom and justice...

That has been said by many of us here in the past. It went on to say:

--and they note that "the way the present Israeli Government is dealing with the situation makes neither for security nor for a just peace". The local church leaders also urge the Palestinian people to put "an end to every kind of violent response...

I think that anybody who is fair-minded and has any sense of humanity understands that suicide bombings and the killing of innocent people is inconceivable and should be denounced. However the occupation and total submission of a people is unacceptable.

One member mentioned that for over 50 years people have lived in refugee camps under the most direr conditions. Can we expect these people not to take desperate measures? We have seen that in the past. Therefore, we have to resolve the occupation problem. Once that is resolved, we are on the road to peace.

I would like to read another quote from the World Council of Churches. It said:

Even more distressing is the emergence of new patterns of abuses such as the Israeli military re-occupation of Palestinian cities, incursions into refugee camps...

They are destitute enough without that. It went on to say:

--mass arbitrary detentions of civilians under degrading circumstances and the deadly attacks on medical and rescue staff, as attested by Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organizations.

It goes without saying that these conditions cannot continue. Like one of my colleagues said, “If you want to make peace, talk to your enemy”. However we have seen very few attempts to sit down and resolve the problems. The major problem is the fact that the occupation is still happening. If we cannot resolve that how can we expect any peace? That is the first message we have to give to that part of the region.

When it comes to a resolution of the problem, there is hope. Tonight I heard our Minister of Foreign Affairs mention that Canada could be called upon to monitor. I take from the word monitor that maybe the Canadian government would send a force over there to keep the peace between the belligerents that seem to be out of control.

One proposal was brought forward last year when the President of the United States sent over Senator Mitchell. He came back and wrote a very substantial report with recommendations. The first recommendation was an unconditional cessation of violence. Second was a restoration of confidence through dialogue and discussion. Third was the resumption of negotiations for a sustainable and just peace.

That is needed to break the cycle of violence. It is necessary but it cannot be done without third party assistance. That is where Canada could be instrumental. We should speak out because all other countries in the world look up to us. They have faith in our judgment. We could take this step.

A former member of the House who is now in the Senate, Senator Pierre De Bané, proposed what he thought would be a solution: a multinational security force. This was discussed among a lot of our colleagues. The force would have a few purposes. First, it would try to overcome mistrust, divide the hostile parties and bring about peace in the region. Second, it could call on countries that are friends of Israel like Canada, the United States, France, Great Britain and even Egypt, the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.

The multinational security force is something we could easily put into effect because we have peacekeeping experience in different parts of the world. We have played the role of peacemaker. We are not powder monkeys. We are peacemakers. Let us keep that in mind.

Many speakers tonight have brought forward views about how the conflict could be resolved. To begin with we must have the means to stop the hostilities. This can only be done if the United Nations comes up again with the idea and insists that a multinational force like the one Canada has proposed go into the area to keep the calm and get a dialogue going for peace.

For more than 50 years people have been living in refugee camps humiliated and destitute. They take the most desperate measures to try to resolve their problems. It creates a cycle of violence. Breaking the cycle will require a third party force. We can be that force in the world. It is important that the Canadian government at the suggestion of the minister go there to monitor the situation. That is one of the steps.

Another thing that was brought out was the peace proposal by Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. There is nothing new to it but I am convinced if the peace process brought forward by Prince Abdullah were adhered to the Palestinians would be happy with the situation. If that is something the United States and the European community are contemplating it could be the basis of a new peace initiative or understanding.

There is a lot more to say but, unfortunately, I am running out of time. I will close by saying that I was very pleased to hear the Minister of Foreign Affairs mention the possibility that Canada could play a monitoring role in the Middle East to ensure that there is peace in the region during the discussions.

There is a lot of emotion in this issue. I listened to the first speaker of the Alliance, the hon. member for Cumberland--Colchester. He made a statement I thought was unbelievable and I have to mention it. He said resistance to occupation was unacceptable. Does that make any sense? What about the French resistance and all the resistance during the second world war? Let us take the example of Nelson Mandela whom we honoured as an honorary citizen.

Middle East March 22nd, 2002

Mr. Speaker, in every quarter, there are people who are inclined to dismiss Palestinians and Israelis equally, condemning the actions of both in the same breath. Others seek to make the problem go away by calling for an end to the violence and a return to the negotiating table.

The military occupation of part of Palestine by Israel since 1967 is the fundamental cause of the crisis in the Middle East. The end of this occupation is a necessary condition for ending the violence and restoring peace.

Canadian policy does not recognize the permanent control by Israel of the territories occupied in 1967 and is opposed to any unilateral action to predetermine the outcome of negotiations, such as settlements in the territories or unilateral action—

Supply February 28th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I will address both his points.

First, regarding aboriginal issues, I was impressed by a book I read some years ago called Drum Beat which talked about aboriginals and the problems that exist in Canada. There is no doubt there is room for improvement in the matter.

Needless to say, my knowledge is limited on the subject but the book brought up aspects of the issue I had never known about. It was a bit disturbing to read about the lack of understanding and how aboriginals have been treated in the past. Their culture was established long before we came. When we came along we wanted to fit the original Canadians into our mould.

When we attempted to do this it created many problems, there is no doubt about it. We have a lot to correct in that regard. The problem dates back many years. The fact that we tried to impose our ways did not help much but I think it is an issue we will be able to resolve in time.

Second, point number 11 in the NDP plan talks about media concentration. I have always felt there is a danger to democratic society when media are concentrated in too few hands. In the last couple of years many Canadians have been concerned about the issue including me. If there is any danger in a democracy it is when there is too much concentration. We must be vigilant at all times to make sure it does not happen to us. It is extremely vital for the government to keep an eye on the issue at all times.

Supply February 28th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, after listening to the 12 point plan to save Canada by the member for Halifax, the leader of the NDP, it brought to mind the 12 point plan to save the countries of the world from future wars brought forward by the then president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, after the first world war. His 12 point plan would have been very good had his country been implicated in it. A lot of his 12 points were not realistic and some of them were rather self-evident.

However, let us deal with the motion that is before us. Number 9 of the NDP's 12 point plan states:

Celebrate immigration as a cornerstone of Canada, restoring respect for diversity and humanity in our immigration practices.

I have always believed we did that but that is beside the point.

I was a little surprised by the motion introduced by the hon. member. I am sure she has attended an oath-swearing ceremony for new Canadian citizens. She has certainly witnessed the extraordinary ties that develop between Canadians and these new citizens. An extensive network of volunteers is the basis for their integration. We do not need a 12 point plan to tell our fellow Canadians how they should behave. Canadians already know what is appropriate.

We have a long tradition of welcoming newcomers and helping them feel at home in their new country. Indeed, the Canadian way is so effective that a number of other countries are interested in knowing more about it. As concerns immigration, Canadians are an example for all to follow, although improvements are always possible.

The Canadian government celebrates immigration and diversity each time it holds an oath-swearing ceremony welcoming new Canadians into our great family. The hon. member could feel the joy that permeates this kind of ceremony and she could feel the deep emotion of witnessing new Canadians swearing their oath.

In October, each year, the Government of Canada celebrates immigration throughout the country during citizenship week. Campaigns like “Welcome Home” and “Canada—All Together” are full of warmth, authenticity, creativity, and so on. They promote respect, freedom, a sense of belonging, and the basic values of the Canadian society.

Nevertheless, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration would like to inquire, with all due respect, where the member opposite has been during the debate of the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The new act goes much further than to simply celebrate immigration as a cornerstone of Canada. The government has entrenched not just immigration but its sister notion, refugee protection, in legislation that will, in the matter of a few months, carry the full weight of law. I think those of us who were in committee were witnesses to that fact.

Let us look at some of the stated objectives of the act. Among them were: to enrich and strengthen the social and cultural fabric of Canadian society while respecting the federal, bilingual and multicultural character of the country; to see that families are reunited in Canada; to promote the successful integration of permanent residents into Canada; to support by means of consistent standards and prompt processing, which I believe will be improved with this new law, the attainment of immigration goals; to facilitate the entry of visitors, students and temporary workers; to work in co-operation with the provinces to secure better recognition of the foreign credentials of permanent residents and their more rapid integration; and finally, to promote international justice and security by fostering respect for human rights and by denying access to criminals.

These are only a few of the selected objectives of the act which have entrenched respect for diversity and humanity in our immigration practices. It is plain that there is no need to restore for what is not lost. In case the specific objectives of the act are not clear, let us review the key principles and values that define Canadian society, the same principles and values that defined the process of legislative review.

First, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the test for equality and freedom from discrimination. Is immigration a cornerstone of Canada? What better proof could a person ask for than the charter itself?

There are other principles that define Canada and the new act: respect for the multicultural character of Canada; commitments to human rights, including concordance with international human rights; and the integration of immigrants into Canadian society. On this point the government is committed to working in co-operation with provinces to secure better recognition of the foreign credentials of permanent residents. This will allow immigrants to settle and become established more readily.

Canadians do celebrate immigration. Let there be no doubt in anyone's mind that the intent of the government's immigration legislation is to continue the Canadian tradition of welcoming diversity, not just tolerance but harmony.

There have been ongoing consultations since the bill was introduced, one year ago. The standing committee has heard from more than 100 groups involved in immigration and refugee protection in Ottawa and across the country. The standing committee tabled a report, entitled “Refugee Protection and Border Security”, in the House in March 2000. The title of this report summarizes part of the issues studied by the Government of Canada.

We have seen the objectives and the principles that guided us in order to ensure that the process was open, public and transparent. This process led to the new legislation which is clearly based on the respect of diversity and humanity.

The new legislation simplifies the refugee determination process, but continues to protect the grounds for determining refugee status, refugee status under the Geneva convention: risk of torture, risk to their life or the risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

For years, the reunification of families has been a cornerstone of Canada's immigration policy. This is indeed good, as the family represents a key element in Canadian society, in fact, it constitutes the core of society. It is families that built Canada and that will continue to build Canada in the future. The reunification of families is an integral part of Canada's immigration policy.

Canadians have always thought that immigrants to Canada will settle more easily if they have the support of their extended family. That is why our immigration and refugee protection policies encourage and support the sponsorship of family members. This is a humanitarian gesture.

This bill expands the family class and makes it a fundamental element and one of the main classes of immigrants. For the first time, parents are mentioned in the definition of the family class outlined in the bill.

I believe the new act will facilitate family reunification. It simplifies application for landing spouses, partners and children who are already in Canada legally by creating an in Canada landing class so they do not have to first leave the country to apply. This is a good measure.

I will conclude by saying that our committee has other work but I am convinced that the new immigration law will facilitate the processes we need to readily improve our immigration policies.

Refugees February 27th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I would like to start by pointing out that the government cannot support the motion by the hon. member for Surrey North. It is not that we are fundamentally opposed to the underlying notion. We agree that asylum seekers should make their claims in the first country that they can.

We do not agree that Canada should take unilateral action. We do not believe that a responsible member of the international community should return refugee claimants to the last country they passed through with no thought to the implications for either the individual or the third country to which the person is being returned. Aside from the many legal and human rights questions that idea raises, it would not help our relations with those other countries.

Let us start from a basic point. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration just announced will be implemented on June 28 of this year, authorizes the Government of Canada to create a list of countries to which refugee claimants can be returned in safety and to pursue the claim. This is not a new provision. Variations on the idea of protection in safe third world countries have been in Canada's immigration legislation since 1989. The approach is inconsistent with our obligations under the Geneva convention on refugees.

Our new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act allows Canada to enter into what are commonly called safe third agreements with other countries. To do so, we are obliged to consider some key factors.

First, is that other country a signatory to the two major conventions on refugee protection and torture? Second, are that country's refugee claim policies and practices in keeping with its obligations under the two conventions? Third, what is its human rights record? And, finally, does that country have an agreement with Canada on the sharing of responsibility for refugee protection?

In essence, all this is designed to make sure that refugee claimants get fair and impartial hearings at the first reasonable opportunity. None of this is designed so that countries can evade their responsibilities under domestic law and international agreements.

Without a doubt, the best way for Canada to guarantee that we will achieve our policy goals is by developing agreements on sharing responsibility for refugee claimants with other countries.

There is a precedent for that kind of agreement. Member states of the European Union have established a responsibility sharing agreement through their Dublin convention. So, what about the United States then?

In fact, the Government of Canada has pursued the idea of a responsibility sharing agreement with the United States. Back in 1995, officials from both governments built on three years of discussions to create a draft memorandum of agreement that would have established a safe third country process for Canada and the United States. However since the Americans were more focused on implementing changes to their own refugee system, they were unable to move forward. By 1998, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the attorney general of the United States decided that it was not practical to move forward at that time.

However that does not mean this idea has been shelved. To the contrary, just last December the United States and Canada signed a joint declaration for the creation of a smart border for the 21st century. Renewed work to develop a responsibility sharing agreement on refugee claimants is a major commitment to that. These measures contained in the 30 point action plan are regarded by both governments as matters of the highest priority. That brings me back to the substance of the motion.

The operative words in what the government is doing are co-operation and shared responsibility. Those are not operative words in the motion of the hon. member. The motion calls for Canada to make a list of countries and then start unilaterally sending people back to those countries with no certainty that they could pursue a refugee claim. It pictures a one-way street. As well, this is a key issue for the protection of refugee claimants. For Canada to unilaterally return claimants to a country they have transited en route to Canada could deprive the claimant of the right to make a claim, which we want to avoid.

Canada will get nowhere if we move forward unilaterally. Given the Americans' fully understandable concerns about security, does the hon. member really believe that they would cheerfully welcome Canada just sending back claimants who had passed through the U.S.?

And this is not just about their feelings. It is about their laws. American law is also open to the idea of safe third country protection, but only on the basis of an international responsibility sharing agreement. The U.S. government would not view unilateral Canadian action as consistent with efforts to jointly manage our common border.

The reality is that the movement of refugee claimants goes both ways. People come through the U.S. to get to Canada. Others arrive in Canada as a way station to the United States. So, both countries need to work together on this.

Both our countries appreciate that the status quo encourages people smuggling and other irregular movements of people across our shared border. The lack of a shared process weakens public confidence in the refugee determination system.

So the obvious direction is a responsibility sharing agreement for refugee claimants that would provide a clear and transparent basis to better manage movements between the United States and Canada. And we will not get there if Canada takes a knee jerk response that ignores the interests of the United States. It will not be helped if we avoid working out a fair and effective system that meets the needs of both countries.

So, at a very simple operational and international level, this motion will not work. However, it would demonstrate other flaws almost immediately on implementation.

The motion is based on an appealing idea; that people should make a refugee claim at the first reasonable opportunity. It reflects the view the government holds that people should not shop around from country to country for protection However it is fundamentally flawed. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration says this without drawing any negative assessment of the claims processes in the countries mentioned in the motion under debate. It is a motion that is basically problematic.

The way forward is through bilateral agreements. The way forward is through collaborative efforts that meet international standards of protection for refugee claimants as well as domestic expectations. That is the path the government has chosen and that is the path we intend to follow.

Income Tax Act December 5th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I have prepared notes and we have checked anything we raise in the House. I wish the opposition would do the same. What we have seen here are bogus charges and all kinds of statements that do not stand up to the test of the facts.

If the hon. member has any information he should give it to us. He obviously does not. He must remember we are in a democratic system where we believe in the rule of law. Regardless of all his statements they will not stand up to the test of the facts.

The hon. member mentioned the auditor general's report. Obviously with the new bills we have brought before the House we will improve in this regard. Nonetheless Canada has a great reputation as a doorway for immigrants from all over the world. We do not want to lose that great advantage.